Chairman’s Blog following the Parish Council meeting Wednesday 16th December 2020.
This was a very busy meeting with a number of significant matters being dealt with.
Firstly, I am delighted to welcome Margaret Bleet as a new Councillor, joining to fill a vacancy arising from Wendy McGuinness stepping down. Margaret has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for most of her life so I know will make a very valuable contribution.
Wendy was not a Councillor for long but in her short time she was a very positive influence so will be sadly missed. We are very grateful to her for her input.
The Council approved a balanced budget for 2021/22 and a very slightly reduced precept of £55.10 for a Band D property.
The Youth Club project is still progressing well. We are grateful to Chelmer Valley High School for running a survey of their pupils and parents which received a very positive response. The project has been promoted online for contractors to bid for the work and we have identified a preferred partner. They are now finalising their proposal, in particular looking at alternative positions on the site for the building. We hope to make a decision in the New Year to get the work underway.
In a very exciting development, we can report that the Council has had an encouraging meeting with the CCG who have indicated that they could consider the possibility of a GP Surgery in Broomfield Village. So we are looking at the Village Hall site to see if their facilities could be incorporated as part of an expanded community facility. There is a very long way to go, all that has been agreed so far is that we will look at options together and arrange a further meeting in The New Year.
Sadly, our Clerk Mike Letch is leaving us. We will start advertising for a new Clerk with the Essex Association of Local Councils in January. Mike has done a great job steering us through some very difficult issues in his time with us. We wish him the very best of luck for the future. I am very pleased that Mike has agreed to stay on until his successor has been appointed.
We have wanted to be able to put a lit Christmas tree in a central place for some time, the problem as always been how to power the lights. We have been talking to Madeleyne Court about putting a tree on the green in front of their property. It is too late for this year but I hope that we will be able to put this in place for 2021. We will also consider planting a growing tree.
The most important issue this meeting was The Neighbourhood Plan which has been a significant piece of work over 4 years. John Blake and his colleagues, on the working group, have worked tirelessly to get us to the point that we are ready to go public. 2021 will be a very busy year as we promote the findings, work with Chelmsford City Council to bring our plan to a conclusion leading to a public vote on its adoption.
At this meeting, we had an exciting presentation on the Broomfield Neighbourhood Plan (NP). The NP Steering Group has been working on this since 2016 and now it’s approaching the home stretch.
Once adopted, the Neighbourhood Plan will form the planning framework for Broomfield, alongside the Chelmsford Local Plan. The Local Plan has to cover the whole of Chelmsford, but our NP is able to concentrate just on what’s important for Broomfield. It will add extra planning policies to protect what residents hold dear about our village. It will also include ‘Community Aspirations’ that aim to get new cycle paths, traffic reduction measures, GP facilities, new woodlands and other things that we’ve been trying to achieve for the village over many years.
You can see the presentation by clicking this link. It may need more explanation to make sense, so if you have any questions, please use our dedicated e-mail [email protected] and we’ll get back to you with answers as soon as we can.
This presentation is just the beginning. There will be many opportunities to hear about the NP and to have your say. There will be a big consultation around April/May time next year. So watch this space to find out more and to contribute your ideas to this project – one of the most exciting and important the Parish Council has ever done.
Broomfield Parish Council meeting Wednesday 19 August 2020
Last week’s Council meeting was as boisterous as ever, but again we have some important issues in train at the moment which we cannot necessary all agree on all of the time. The formal minutes will be available on the website in due course.
Sadly, we have to record the resignation of Roy Perry as a Councillor which leaves a vacancy. If anybody in the village is interested in taking part in the decision making process in Broomfield please do contact me or the Clerk for further detail.
Since our last meeting we have built two raised beds at the allotment site, one has already been taken by a very senior member of the allotment community. As soon as the second is taken, we will look to build another two. If anybody is interested for themselves, or knows of anybody who would not be able to take on a full site but would like to grow their own salads and vegetable crops in an easy, accessible environment, then please do contact Wendy Martin at the office who can give you more details. I number of vacant plots have also now been let but there are still one or two available if anybody is interested.
We have started work on resurfacing the Village Hall carpark which was badly in need of repair. Unfortunately, the work has uncovered a number of very poor structural areas which need to be rebuilt which will delay completion of the work and increase the costs.
We are also resurfacing the cycle track as weeds were starting to come through in some areas and others can be slippery so a more rugged surface is being laid. The work is not yet finished so the surface is a bit gravelley. Because the same contractor is doing the cycleway and the car park, he had to postpone the final stages of covering the cycleway to work on the car park. The track is proving very popular so this work will make it even more attractive, safe and accessible.
We are pushing ahead with the plan for a new Youth Club and to help the planning have allocated £5,000 towards planning costs. We want to move quickly with this project but it has to be properly planned if it is to be successful. We are very grateful to Shirley Hume and Donna Hance for bringing this opportunity to us and their fantastic enthusiasm for the young people of the area.
We have also allocated £1,200 to copying and printing to support lobbying Essex County Council to consider using the land they own behind Broomfield Place for community projects rather than residential building which is their declared objective. We have very little time to achieve a change in policy but the working group, led by Cllr Wendy Daden, have set themselves this objective and will work tirelessly to achieve it.
We are pushing ahead with the plans to refurbish and upgrade the children’s playground. We now have three quotations from contractors. The Village Amenities Committee will be meeting soon to consider these and will make a recommendation to the September Council meeting.
On the negative side we have received a solicitor’s letter from the owner of the Pavilion site threatening legal action regarding her access along the rear of the playground. This is very disappointing as there is no doubt that the deeds to the land do permit occasional deliveries over the car park and along the path behind the children’s play area. We not believe that there is anything to argue about, but the owner refuses to engage in any meaningful negotiations, preferring to trespass on your fields, risking damage to the football pitch, the adult sports equipment and potentially public safety. We have of course referred the matter to our insurers who have appointed lawyers to represent the Council. We still believe that a simple agreement is possible but that is now out of our hands for at least the time being.
Cllr Barnes – August 2020
Last night’s meeting was probably the longest and most well attended meeting I can remember.
We had the full Council, a City and District Councillor and eight members of the public including those supporting motions on the agenda.
We started by hearing from Donna Hance and Shirley Hume about their plan to launch a Youth Club for Broomfield.
The idea is erect a “temporary” building on the David Smith Field that they can use as a Youth Club during evenings but that the Village Hall will be able to use as general overflow facilities and for the type of hiring’s that we cannot currently accommodate such as heavier crafts and messy parties.
Broomfield has needed youth facilities for a long time, previous projects have not been successful long term, but we are determined to try again.
The Council supported unanimously taking development of the project forward so we hope for early updates next month.
We considered two applications for grant funding:
Essex Dementia Care are a regular hirer of the Village Hall and would have expected to benefit from a proportion of the proceeds of this year’s fun day which has sadly been cancelled due to the Covid Crisis. I am pleased to say that the Council was able to award the Trust £750 to fund the drinks and refreshments that they need for their regular sessions in the Hall.
We had received an application from the Copland Trust £2,000 to fund replacing the front windows in their 4 Alms-houses in School Lane. There was some debate about whether Chelmsford City Council should fund such work, or should we wait until the Government announces their plans to fund green improvements. The Trust was keen to get this work done by the Autumn so that the residents can benefit over the winter. Alms-houses are a rare and valuable community asset and Cllr Daden pointed out rightly that if they are not supported and properly maintained they can ultimately be sold off to private owners which would be a loss to the community. I am pleased to say that the Council agreed to support the grant application.
We have had some debate in recent months about delaying investments while we seek grants or await regulatory changes. That is all very well but the other side of the coin is that valuable and important projects can be delayed for long periods while applications are built up and considered. They also take a considerable amount of work. For example, we made the decision to install a defibrator at the Village Hall then spent over a year, unsuccessfully, seeking a grant for money that we could easily afford from our own funds. Who knows, that delay could have cost a life. Delaying the Copland Trust grant could well have meant another cold drafty winter for the residents.
The major item for debate this meeting was Cllr Daden’s presentation on Community uses that the land behind Broomfield Place could be put too.
The Broomfield Place Working Group has been developing their ideas for over two years and Cllr Daden had produced an impressive prospectus document and visual presentation for the meeting.
The ideas, drawn from consultation with the Village, include, a café, a new Broomfield library, a nature reserve and some supported housing. The whole project could cost £5.45m and is intended should be funded from loans, charity support and our own Community Investment Levy.
Although nobody objected to the ideas in principal debate surrounded the fact that the land is owned by Essex County Council who need to maximise the value for the benefit of Essex, the fact that Chelmsford City Council do not see the land as a development site and the technical complications around how the idea can be fitted into to The Neighbourhood Plan that we are developing. The latter is crucial if Chelmsford are to give any development plan serious consideration.
Cllr Daden wanted to continuing investing in the development of the plan in more detail but Cllr Blake, who chairs both the Planning and the Neighbourhood Plan committees, and Cllr Aldridge, our District Councillor, urged putting the prospectus to Essex Council without delay so that they have the opportunity to consider its merits seriously and we can include it in the Neighbourhood Plan.
After debate the two motions on the agenda were replaced with a new proposal, by which the Council unanimously agreed to note the prospectus and commend it to Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council for implementation.
The prospectus will now be sent off and The Clerk and Cllr Aldridge will work together to organise a meeting with Essex County Council as soon as possible.
Finally, although not discussed I can say that contractors have been appointed to resurface the Village Hall carpark and work will start in early August. Even better, we are obtaining quotes to refurbish and upgrade the playground in the park, instructions have been given to an architect to develop a feasibility study to extend the Village Hall and we are going ahead with building two raised beds at the allotment site as a pilot before a more substantial project.
Cllr Barnes, July 2020.
As Chairman of the Parish Council I try to remain as impartial as possible and report what is happening factually. The subject of the library has raised many emotions from those who feel strongly that it should remain open as it is. I have tried to be pragmatic and work with Essex County Council to understand what they want to do and how we as a village can be involved.
That does not mean that personally I support ECC in the strategy they are following, or that I agree the library should stay open at any cost. It simply means that I am trying to lead the Parish Council along a line of keeping as many options open and taking advantage of opportunities that might arise as the debate continues.
Others may disagree but I believe that we do need to acknowledge that:
- According to ECC figures Broomfield Library is the least used library in Essex.
- It is only open for very limited hours; I have been told by ECC that they do not have the resources and cannot take the risk of opening for longer hours to test whether that would increase demand. If we could provide volunteers to open for longer hours they would consider supporting us.
- The building itself is old, and expensive to heat and maintain.
At the specific request of two Councillors we departed from our normal format for our last meeting dedicated our meeting to discussing the future of Broomfield Library.
We had promoted the opportunity for the public to join us and participate as best we could on notice boards and social media and also wrote to a wide group of community groups and the schools. Sadly only eight members of the public attended. Few of the organisations responded to the invitation and none joined us.
Earlier this year Essex County Council (ECC) launched a public consultation about the future of all libraries in Essex. They had a strong response and after consideration published their strategy for the future. They committed not to close any libraries in the next 5 years but are encouraging community groups to take a much more active role. They also invited community groups to submit “Expressions of Interest” (EOI) in taking over local libraries as “Community Libraries” and proposed an £18,000 grant to support this.
Broomfield Parish Council have put forward three EOI’s; one to leave the library as it is, one to build a new library with greater facilities on the land behind Broomfield Place, and one to extend the existing Village Hall to accommodate the library and community activities. We are aware that other EOI’s have also been submitted but as yet do not know from whom.
ECC have made it clear that the EOI’s are not considered to be tenders and that their expectation is that the parties who have shown an interest should work together to develop a co-ordinated plan for their area.
There are many questions.
- If nothing changes in Broomfield will our library just close in 5 years’ time?
- Is it a bluff and if we do nothing will ECC continue to run our library because they have a statutory duty to provide library services?
- Will the Tories still be control of Essex in 5 years’ time?
- Would a successor County Council have a different approach?
- How would a new library on the land behind Broomfield Place be developed if the land is owned by ECC and how would it be funded?
- We do own the Village Hall but how would an extension be funded?
- If the library were opened for longer hours would more people use it?
- Could the Village generate enough volunteers to support a Community Library?
- If a Community Library were created would ECC support it with full book lending services?
I do not believe that anybody, including ECC doubts the value to the community of the groups that use our Library including the Summer Reading Challenges, the Book Clubs, the Baby and Toddler Rhymetime and the Community Tea Time but we did have one resident come to our meeting who promoted the excellent work of the Home Library Service that delivers books and companionship to housebound people.
Other members of the public stressed how important they felt the library was and that Essex County Council should continue to keep it open and fully funded.
When we went around the table the Councillors made the following suggestions and comments:
- Could we extend the existing library at the front to incorporate a cafe?
- There was general doubt that the Village could recruit enough volunteers to successfully run a Community Library long term.
- We should encourage ECC to employ somebody to promote library services like Chelmsford did to promote the museum.
- There is the idea to build a new library behind Broomfield Place but how could we promote that if we do not own the land. The suggestion made was that we should formally ask ECC what they would want for a sufficient area of land.
- Finally, to extend the Village Hall to accommodate a Community Library and the community activities that go with it.
There is a school of thought that ECC have a statutory duty to provide library services. So if we do nothing we will force ECC to keep our library open. To achieve this end, we are urged to withdraw our expressions of interest. It certainly is an idea. However it would appear to ignore two points.
- Cllr John Aldridge who represents the village at ECC was at our meeting and said that ECC’s statutory duty was to provide a library service to the County, not necessarily to every town and village. That suggested to me that as long as there is a substantial library service in the County as a whole some smaller libraries could close.
- Following on, I would ask if we withdraw our expressions of interest what happens to the others? I can only think that they will sit down with ECC and build up their plans to take over our library. This would then happen without your Parish Council representing the people of this village and you would not have any input at all.
The first point may be correct, it may not; I cannot say, but it must be ECC’s informed view. The second point seems only logical to me. If we are involved in discussions, then we have an opportunity to contribute and influence rather that waiting outside the room to learn of the outcome. We can withdraw, if that is our preference, at any point. Especially with extending the Village Hall option being involved with a County Council project will undoubtably open doors to funding opportunities to improve our Village facilities within a relatively short timetable and at far less cost to the community.
Moving on to other matters, the speed limit on Main Road from the Church Green to Hospital Approach is considered by many to be dangerous. We are making representations to ECC to reduce that speed limit to 30mph which we understand it should be. We are also making representations to have a second Speed Indication Device installed so that we can one at each end of the Village.
Traffic warnings and speed limits all have their place, but we all have a part to play. Personally I would urge all residents to drive slowly from our Village. Remember that 30mph is the limit, not the target. Many Villages around the Country adopt a “20 is plenty” slogan. It is up to us to set an example which will increase safety and make using our Village as a rat run less attractive.
Previous blog post – August 2019
We do not normally see members of the parish community at our meetings so it was good to have a number attend. A small group wanted to raise comments about the use of the Barn on the Allotment site by The Broomfield Cottage Gardeners Society (BCGS), one wanted to ask questions about the proposed formation of an Allotment Association and one was attending in response to an item published on social media by a Councillor, who was not attending the meeting, regarding a GP surgery for the Village.
The Council has been talking to BCGS for some time about the possibility of them moving from the larger side of the Barn to the smaller side which would make the larger area available for hire to other groups particularly those that cannot currently hire the main hall because their activities are “messy” and could damage the floor in the main hall. Activities such as arts and crafts. We appreciate that we would have to invest in the building and there may not be sufficient demand but we would like to explore the possibilities. Council understands that BCGS would prefer not to move but in our opinion the smaller area is perfectly suitable for their needs and given that they have always paid a very modest subsidised rent it is not unreasonable to ask them to make way so that others in the village can use the facility. We have offered to invest in refitting the smaller area to their specification and allow them to retain use of various external areas that are important to them.
Two motions were put to the Council, firstly that BCGS be offered a formal lease which would give them security of tenure. This was rejected by Council as an inappropriate solution and in any case it was felt unlikely that BCGS would be interested in the idea.
However a proposal was supported to renew the existing short term arrangement with BCGS so that they could have confidence that nothing was changing immediately and that a working group comprised of myself, Cllr Les Steed and Mike Letch, the Clerk, would fully investigate the demand for use of the Large Barn and the costs of bringing it up to a suitable standard to let. If anybody else in the village is interested in contributing please do contact me or the Clerk.
We had a meeting of allotment holders in July to discuss forming an allotment association. There was some enthusiasm for an informal association but nobody was keen on volunteering to become an officer of an association. The Council believes that it very important that the allotment holders have a voice and that they are able to give their opinion on the future management of the site. Matters such as the location of taps, the condition of some plots, the use of sheds and water harvesting need to be considered and the Council does not wish to be imposing its views. Therefore the Council is going ahead with forming an association which will be managed from the office and will hold open meetings with allotment holders once or twice a year. The first meeting will be held before Christmas.
One parishioner was attending the meeting to learn more about the idea of a GP surgery for the Village. Unfortunately this was one of those topics that had been blown out of proportion by an item on social media. In reality the matter was on the agenda as nothing more than an item of note. The Neighbour Plan sub committee had contacted local GP’s about their long term plans because we are very well aware that parishioners would like to see a surgery in the village. Unexpectedly a surgery contacted us and asked to come and visit with an idea that we could build a surgery within the grounds of the Village Hall. The Clerk and two Councillors and met representatives of the practice on the Friday before our meeting. It was a very friendly meeting and it was agreed that the idea had some possibilities, nothing specific beyond the fact that we own the site and there is space was discussed. As is only right the matter was reported to Councillors. The practice were also told that there is property behind Broomfield Place owned by Essex County Council that could also be a possibility for them. They have now gone off to consider their options. One Councillor had urged the public, via social media, to attend the meeting in force, it is good that they didn’t as there was nothing to learn other than what had been published with agenda and no proposals were put forward. As those familiar with property transactions will know, most new ideas come to nothing and if, not progress is normally very slow. It is an exciting possibility but nothing more than a possibility nonetheless.
Finally can I just mention that the future of our library, like most libraries in Essex, is under review. As a community we can chose to do nothing, in which case I suspect that in 5 years time the library will close. Or we can engage with Essex County Council to explore options to rehouse the services offered from the existing building and/or raise the use of the existing facilities so that closure is no longer necessary.
We do not need to rush into decisions but ECC are very serious about engaging with Parishes that wish to work with them. We have decided to make the future of our library the key topic for discussion at the next Parish Council meeting on Wednesday 25th September so if you have a view that you would like to share or just want to hear the discussion please do join us in the Village Hall at 19.30.